Ferguson slams FA treatment of United in four-letter rant
The immediate by-product of Ferguson’s decision to place his faith in the younger members of his squad is likely to be a healthy contingent being named in Fabio Capello’s England squad for next month’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales.
Including Michael Carrick, whose selection is not guaranteed since he is yet to start for his club in the Premier League, and Rio Ferdinand, out since tweaking a hamstring in the opening-day win at West Brom, Capello could name eight United players in his 23-man squad when it is unveiled on tomorrow evening.
The statistic is a source of pride to Ferguson. Less so, the United manager believes, to the people he is helping out. Ferguson’s relations with the FA have at times been only marginally less strained than those with the BBC, whose representatives he admitted to his pre-match briefing yesterday morning for the first time in seven years.
A chequered disciplinary record, coupled with the treatment meted out to his players – David Beckham and Gary Neville immediately spring to mind – have tended to put Ferguson on the defensive in his dealings with the FA. But last season he had a particularly fraught time.
Forced to serve a five-match touchline ban for calling the impartiality of referee Martin Atkinson into question following a controversial defeat at Chelsea in March, Ferguson was aghast at a misconduct charge being brought against Wayne Rooney the following month when he swore into a TV camera at West Ham. The subsequent two-match ban cost United Rooney’s services in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City at Wembley.
In an official resume of the season published during the summer, Red Devils chief executive David Gill claimed United get singled out for treatment by the FA.
Now Ferguson has gone one step further. “They [the FA] treat us like s***,” he said. “We are pleased for the players because they deserve to be there. They are outstanding. The FA may one day realise who has produced more players for their country than any other club in the world.
“Maybe they will get some joy from it at some point in their lives and realise how important we are to England.”
It was the kind of bombshell only Ferguson is capable of delivering with such force and immediately triggered thoughts that he could be landing himself in even more trouble.
However, the FA’s reaction was remarkably relaxed and it seems highly unlikely the United manager will face any action.
Ferguson has also warned Arsenal’s unhappy fans to be careful what they wish for, as he prepares to send his side out to take on the Gunners tomorrow. Although Arsenal eased some of the immediate pressure on Arsene Wenger by reaching the Champions League group stage this week, the north London giants head to Old Trafford having collected just one point from their opening two Barclays Premier League games.
That meagre return, the loss of star men Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Wenger’s transfer policy which has left many supporters distinctly underwhelmed and six seasons without a trophy have led many to start thinking the previously unthinkable and wonder whether a change at the top is required. Given his record over almost 15 years, it seems a harsh assessment.
And Ferguson wonders exactly who those hard-to-please fans have in mind as a potential replacement. “I would like to know who is going to replace him,” said the United manager.
“The work he has done in the 15 years he has been at the club is the best in Arsenal’s history. Yes, he has not won a trophy for six years but what does that mean? The quality of his side has not been reduced.”
Rather, as Ferguson points out, the standard of opposition has improved, first through the vast riches lavished on Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, now the even deeper pockets of Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City.
“Chelsea’s involvement has created a lot of the problem in terms of trophies to win because they and ourselves have been dominating the Premier League,” said Ferguson. “Now Manchester City have come on the scene. When Arsenal and ourselves were going head-to-head, it went on for about eight years. The competition is far greater now.”
Ferguson certainly will not be taking Arsenal lightly, even though his own youthful side have started the season with a bang, firing three second-half goals past Tottenham on Monday after an opening weekend win at West Brom.
The question United’s manager is faced with is whether to stick with the likes of Tom Cleverley now Darren Fletcher is available to beef up his midfield, or if he should leave out either Jonny Evans or Phil Jones in favour of Ferdinand if the England man recovers from his injury. Even more eye-catching is the battle between Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez for the right to partner Rooney in attack.
It seems Ferguson is leaning towards his kids. “I have a tremendous problem when it comes to picking a side but it is the kind of problem I want,” he said. “They [the younger players] have only played a couple of games. We are very enthusiastic about their potential but the name of the game is what they achieve.”